Over 250 year-old Harrogate school faces closure after academy search fails

Burnt Yates Church of England Primary School, image Google Maps
Burnt Yates Church of England Primary School, image Google Maps

Parents of pupils at a more than 250 year-old school in Harrogate have said they have been dealt a 'cruel hand' as they wait to find out if doors will close for good.

A meeting will take place today (November 21) at Burnt Yates Church of England Primary School after the school failed to find an academy trust to sponsor it after being placed into special measures by Ofsted last year.

North Yorkshire County Council's Executive Member for Schools will be asked to authorise consultation on a proposal for the school to close in August 2018. The news has angered parents who say not enough was done by the council and Church of England Diocese of Leeds, particularly after an attempt to join the Yorkshire Causeway Trust failed after being told they were too small.

Linda Smith said: "A lot of the parents really feel we have been dealt a cruel hand, we were told about this last Thursday and they informed told the children the following day. They are really upset.

"The authority has let us down and the diocese too, with only one trust like this operating in the area so they are to blame too.

She added: "The school has been here for something like 250 years and has a trust paying for things like school trips. This also covers the cost of the building and the site is huge with room to expand, NYCC would not exactly have much to pay for it to remain.

"It feels like the government policy of having to become an academy in this situation is hitting small faith schools like us. I am sure many others would not have the numbers needed to be accepted by the trust."

The Inadequate rating was handed to the school across all categories following an Ofsted inspection in December last year. The Diocese of Leeds was to help find a suitable academy trust to sponsor the school after the Regional School’s Commissioner ordered it to become an academy because of the report.

Among the issues was safeguarding, which was not effective and governors 'relied on information from a previous teacher and a school improvement partner, which was giving them an over positive-view of the school and not recognising where the school was failing'.

A follow up section 8 inspection in July found safeguarding was now effective but the school community was found to not have accepted the inadequate report findings. Because of this the initial response was judged to not be sufficient.

The Head of School and Executive Headteacher were however said to be 'pulling staff in the right direction' and had helped improve safeguarding at the school.

After failing to secure an agreement with the Yorkshire Causeway Trust an attempt was made to amalgamate the school with Ripley Primary School, the school itself would close but classes would continue on the site.

This also failed after governors at Ripley agreed last week that it was not financially viable.

The county council and Church of England Diocese of Leeds have said they explored all options but have said 'in some cases alternatives are not there'.

A spokesman for the Church of England Diocese of Leeds said: “Despite every effort, we are in the sad situation where Burnt Yates Church of England Primary School now faces closure.

“Obviously, we will do all everything to support the children and parents to help them find suitable alternative schooling because the school was put in an Ofsted category, it was legally required to become an academy.

“However it has been impossible to find an academy trust able to engage with Burnt Yates, or any other local school with which it could amalgamate.

“Unfortunately, that therefore means the school cannot function legally or financially and will have to close, subject to the necessary statutory process.”